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Surprise: Your Users Don’t Have Time For You

Your readers have better things to do than read what you have to say.

Don’t believe me? Try these facts on for size:

  • 79% of your readers scan text; they don’t read it
  • Reading on a screen takes 25% more time than on paper
  • Intro texts are skipped by 2/3 of users

That’s all according to Jakob Nielsen‘s research, as conveyed during Usability Week 2008 in New York.

Why don’t they have time for you? They don’t think you’re useless, but they care more about themselves. Who can blame them?

Your readers come to you to get a specific piece of information, and then they move on.

So to keep them around, you should bury what they’re looking for, right? Wrong.

Give them what they want — right away.

3 Tips for Fast and Easy Comprehension

To make you content easier to digest, use these three methods:

  • Lead with the conclusion.
  • Shorten your sentences. Use one thought per sentence.
  • Visually separate key points with lists or bold.

Old media writers are horrible at this. They bury the lead somewhere in the third or fourth paragraph. Each paragraph is more than 3 sentences long. And the conclusion is at the end.

Don’t worry about “giving away” the ending before the reader has done any work. That’s not how they see it. Remember: you are not your users.

If you consistently deliver the information that your readers want and how they want it, they’ll be back.

Make them happy. Give them what they want as quickly as possible. Or they’ll choose someone else to give their time to.

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© Jason Unger. A Digital Ink Production.